Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm reading The Sisters Brothers

I can't say I read too many western novels, who does? I've tried a couple Zane Grey's, but I found the style dated, and that's about it as far as my experience of western literature is concerned which is a pity because I'm a fan of all things western. I don't block out the genre but I don't see too many titles in book shops, and I wouldn't know which authors to try anyway. But last week I read a glowing review of Patrick De Witts' novel The Sisters Brothers, I was grateful for the heads up, and doubly grateful when I found a copy in my local library the next day.

I was planning to read this book while I'm in Paris this week, but it's a real page turner and I'll probably finish it by tomorrow. The book is sharp, from the cover design to typeface and layout. It's both a pleasure to look at and to feel, the paper texture is slightly rough and it has the colour of pale sepia. If you read using a Kindle or some other device I feel sorry for you, you'll miss out on the tactile element of the book.

The story set in the California gold rush, is about two hired killers, the brothers Charles and Eli Sisters. The odyssey reminded me of Don Quixote as the brothers cross paths with a remarkable cast of characters. I'm half way through the book, the pace has been consistent (no padding), the narration by Eli is gripping.  It's witty, eloquent and heart wrenching. 

Highly recommended.

The Sisters Brothers - Photography by Tim Irving

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mug Shots

Mug shots are compulsive viewing for me, but most mug shots that we get a chance to see in Europe are from the US. Going back to Billy the Kid, American criminals have been photographed and made famous for us Europeans to see.

A few years ago in Great Britain we had an anti drug campaign where mug shots of drug users were printed in newspapers and on posters. The mug shots were before and after types, showing the same person at their first arrest, then another photo several years later. Predictably the drug users aged horribly and lost all their teeth between arrests, but because of legalities in the UK the campaign only featured mug shots of American drug users.

Mug shots from Great Britain are altogether rarer. The mug shots below come from a police identification book believed to be from the 1930s. It was originally found in a junk shop by a member of the public and donated to Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums.

I don't know about you, but these British criminals look like fun to me. Affable and easy going, they're not my idea of reprobates, I'd be happy to enjoy a small glass of stout in their company.
Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums
Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums

The Suderland Kid

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thank you, Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams and Camera
Today I stumbled upon an old book. I was in the attic trying to find an exposure meter (Ansel is holding one in his left hand), which I packed away four years ago. Rummaging  through boxes marked photography I found a very worn Time Life book called "The Photograph", and it was in this very book that I saw several photographs that started me taking a serious interest in photography.

One of the photos I was smitten with was Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, it was a picture I looked at on a regular basis for several years. You really need to see a good print to fully appreciate Ansel Adams, images on the web don't do him justice. Moonrise, Hernandez, sums up a terrific photographer, artist and craftsman.

As  flicked through the book in the attic, it dawned on me that my tastes have changed to such an extent that I wouldn't go out of my way to look at another Ansel Adams photograph. His style of photography was the first to grab my attention, but also the first I tired of. Still I owe him big time, so today I would like to say thank you to Ansel Adams, a great photographer.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

French Formal Garden

While browsing my images from my last visit to Paris I came across a batch of photos I'd taken in a formal garden in Paris. The garden is private but I gained access because it belongs to the owner of my hotel. Incidentally, the hotel has the smallest elevator I've ever seen, about the size of a shower cubicle.

 I last looked at these photos over a year ago and never got around to evaluating them, but now I've decided I like them, so here's a small selection.

French Formal Garden - Tim Irving

Stereolab - Lo Boob Oscillator

Just a week to go before we go to France. As the organiser I still have lots to do like planning, packing and charging batteries, everything is booked except for one train journey to London, I'll do that today, I'm very excited. This is Stereolab the English band that occasionally to sing in French.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Greek Food

greek taverna - photograph by Tim Irving

I like this photograph, lens flare included. Lots of layers and reflections for the eyes to explore. Unfortunately the Greek Taverna is gone! I went past the restaurant on Saturday to find it's now a clothes boutique.

I've visited Greece and its islands dozens of times, I'm used to the food and how it's served, by that I mean hot dishes served warm. I prefer my cooked food hot but if I eat in a Greek restaurant I'm not surprised if the food arrives tepid.

But for anyone who hasn't eaten Greek food in Greece warm food can give the impression that it hasn't been thoroughly cooked. Every time I visited the Taverna I played a little game where I'd try to guess which diners would send their food back to be re-heated, it was about 20 percent. Despite its cold food the atmosphere was always warm and friendly. I'm very sorry to see an independent restaurant close.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Earth, Sea and Sky - Circle Prints Home Decor

Paper lanterns over the ocean - Tim Irving

Road to nowhere - Tim Irving

Summer Swallows - Tim Irving
I'm intrigued by circular photographs, I absolutely love the voyeuristic feeling which feels like looking through a telescope or a ships porthole. The circular format is far from new, the first Kodak cameras introduced in 1888, produced round photos, the image below is of George Eastman (Mr Kodak), photographed with his box camera.

Kodak box circular photo George Eastman

Lately I've seen few circular photographs at the National Portrait Gallery in London, so I think the round print could once again become popular. I've added three color themed prints to my Etsy shop to gauge the popularity.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Titanium Grey Gray Camera Strap

Titanium Grey Cord Camera Strap - Photograph by Tim Irving
I've made a new strap in titanium gray, or grey, depending how you prefer to spell it. The color is very close to the chrome on rangefinder cameras. As usual it's available in my shop.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Photography and Literature - Charing Cross Road

Despite the Olympics London is very relaxed. I took the opportunity to spend a couple of hours browsing the second hand book shops of Charing Cross Road. I read recently that Kindle books now out-sell real books on Amazon, so I presume real bookshops will disappear, just like real music shops. In case you need reminder of the real thing, I've come up with a series of photographs for book lovers. Perhaps book lovers who lack the space for a real collection. Available in my official Tim Irving Etsy shop.

Antiquarian Poetry Books by Tim Irving

Antique Poetry Books - Milton - Photography by Tim Irving

Book self, Charing Cross Road - Photograph by Tim Irving

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wisteria House

Wisteria House - Tim Irivng
The weather is so unpredictable! I was soaked in a five minute storm this morning, just after I took this photo in Cambridge. More garden photography in my Etsy shop and more to come.

Monday, August 6, 2012

London Phone Boxes - Phone Box Libraries

London red telephone box Cavendish Square - Photogrpah by Tim Irving

Nobody uses them but public phone boxes are still well loved. For a few weeks this summer while we host the Olympics, London has allowed a few of its traditional red  phone boxes to be transformed by selected artists. It's a nice idea. London is one of the few cities where you can  still find red phone boxes with working phones installed.

Love Life LOndon Telelphone box Photograph by Tim Irving

phone box library - photograph by Tim Irving

This is my local phone box, just outside Cambridge. Like many others around the country, It's been converted into a book exchange. Anyone and everyone is free to browse and help themselves. 

The idea works very well, the box is always stuffed full of books of all genres. My friend above is holding a sporting biography that was published this year.

phone box library -photograph Tim Irving

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A little trick to make your photos eye catching - improve your Etsy photographs

A little trick to make your photos eye catching!

Taking great Etsy product photographs isn't about expensive camera equipment, in fact a new camera can slow your learning down.To make your photos catch the eye of a customer you need to know a few tricks of the trade.

If you've opened an online shop and put a few items for sale you've probably learned new skills like cropping and re-sizing, you will know how to upload photos to your shop. The next stage is to learn a few tricks of the trade to make your photos eye catching. Whether you want better photos of your family and friends or to sell your lovely products on Etsy, I guarantee that following my tips here will improve your photos.

As a photographer I have an in-built compulsion to look at lots of photos. I've never counted how many photos I look at daily, but it must be thousands. I spend a lot of time every day on Etsy, Pintrest and Flickr, I also view dozens of photography blogs and websites. In the evening I usually read one of several art and photography magazines I receive through the mail every week. On most weekends you'll find me in a gallery. I'm a picture junkie!

Of the photos I see, I'm lucky if one stops me in my tracks, if it does I pin it on my Pintrest board. Of the rest, 50% will be technically good,  but 50% don't even register because they're dull. I don't mean the subject is dull! What I mean is the photograph is lifeless and flat. Which is a shame because 9 times out of 10 a dull flat photo can be improved by one simple adjustment: Contrast.

I cannot emphasise enough how important Contrast is! Let me explain why...........

Why You Need Contrast
Photography is all about light. Modern cameras and lenses can make taking photographs easier, they focus for you and guarantee correct exposure, but they can't bring your subject to life. Surprisingly a lot of higher quality DSLR's produce a flatter image than cheaper digital compact cameras, because the manufacturers assume you have the knowledge to make the contrast adjustments yourself.

It's all about Light
Light is the key to good photographs and lighting can make the difference between a good photo and a bad one. Good lighting creates highlights and shadows, it enhances texture (see the Quebec sign below), and it makes your main subject pop out from the background, giving the picture depth.

Unfortunately you can't rely on good lighting. Light is fleeting, it changes with the time of time of day, month of the year and weather conditions. But by adjusting the contrast of your photo it's possible to bring out textures and shadows when the light has failed you.

Contrast is a simple effect you can easily add to your photographs to bring them to life and make them pop. Good photographers make contrast adjustment part of their work flow for every photograph they publish. The adjustment is simple and quick.

How to Adjust Contrast?

Photo Editing Tools

Everyone has access to photo editing tools needed to adjust contrast. Try to use the editor you already have, the one you use to re-size and crop your image. You may need to look in the help menu to find the contrast adjustment.

Alternatively you can use the software CD that came with your camera to make simple adjustments to your photos, or here are plenty of  photo editing packages available like Adobe PhotoShop and Serif PhotoPlus. And there are lots of free editors you can download, you could try these for starters: Photo Pos Pro or Pixia.

You can also use online photo editors. I suggest you try a few to find one you like. I can recommend Pixlr,  it's free to use and works well.

Time to make a start - Open an image in your photo editor

The simplest way to adjust contrast is to use the "Brightness/Contrast" control. If you're using any of the standard photo editing tools, you will find the Brightness and Contrast control under the Image Menu. I've marked it in  RED (below). If you're having problems finding the control, or your editor looks different, use the "Help" menu.
You will find the Brightness/Contrast control under the "Image" menu is at the top of the screen
The Brightness/Contrast is a simple slider control that will add contrast to your photo.

This photo is flat because of the dull light. Just drag the contrast slider to increase the contrast.
I've adjusted the contrast slider to 90 units. Notice how the colors become vibrant.
You will have noticed the Brightness slider above the Contrast slider. It does exactly what it says, it brightens your photos! It's worth playing around with both controls to get the best out of your images.

 The Hard Part
The hardest part about adjusting your photos is finding the control in the photo editor. The Brightness/Contrast adjustment is simple, it works and will improve your photos. If you're happy using this method you can stop here, just keep practising.

There is another way to adjust contrast that gives you even more control, it's called Curves and it's a method professional photographers use, I'll show you how to use it in a future post.

If you have any questions about using photo editors or about adjusting contrast, add a comment below and I'll try and help.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cup Cake Guitar

What a great idea! I'd like to see a trumpet shaped like a bottle of cheap wine.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

French website reveals waiters' tricks to get our money

Paris Cafe - Phtograph by Tim Irving
The garcon isn't a popular figure in France. The French generally distrust waiters and the press are happy to twist the knife. But an article on the French website Rue 69 is likely to confirm what French diners already know, the title is "7 serving tips to increase the bill".

A few examples:
Alexia, a waitress in a "chic brasserie", told the website: "I serve the water regularly so the bottle is finished bang in the middle of the meal, then I suggest another bottle. Almost always, the customer orders."

Another trick of the restaurant trade, says the report, is serving salty snacks with pre-meal drinks to make customers thirsty and serving the occasional glass "on the house" to detain diners at the table if business is slack.

So the next time a waiter offers you a salted peanut........You have been warned.


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